“It is a dangerous position to be in when you can’t see, can’t hear and won’t listen…”
As a lifelong military aviator, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to fly a host of jet aircraft. However, regardless of how different the airframes may have been, one item has always been constant. We pilot types call it the Dash-1.
The Dash-1 is much like the owner’s manual for your car, although significantly more complex and infinitely more voluminous. In addition to outlining common operating guidelines and procedures for properly employing the airplane, one section stands out more than the others: chapter three. This chapter provides details on irregular, abnormal, and emergency operations. In fact, the information in this chapter is deemed of such high importance that every page is outlined in a black-and-white checkered border that makes it easy to find and impossible to miss.
Everyone who has ever flown a military aircraft, regardless of service, is intimately familiar with chapter three of their respective Dash-1s.
Given a pilot can face a wide range of possible challenging situations or malfunctions, wise people years ago developed a means to help further channel our attention. That is, they devised a way to categorize the information in this critical section of our flight manuals into three subareas, with each denoting increasing levels of potential consequences if some form of action is not eventually taken.
The first category is termed a note. Notes provide information that is good to know but will likely not lead to any form of injury or catastrophe if you choose to ignore it. Thus, notes make us aware of useful and often ordinary things about operating our aircraft smartly.
In our daily lives, notes are akin to the stickers affixed to the inside of our windshields reminding us to change our oil at three thousand miles. Although it’s very unlikely anything disastrous will immediately happen if you don’t pay attention, the sticker does serve as a visual reminder that you should consider doing something if you want to minimize the chances you’ll do lasting damage to your car’s engine in the future.
The second category is known as a caution and, as the term implies, is designed to heighten our awareness. A caution brings to light a situation that deserves increased vigilance, consideration, or coordination. These cautions then point us to important information about operating our aircraft safely.
For example, a caution in the Dash-1 is very much like hearing from your doctor that your cholesterol or blood pressure is elevated. If you fail to make some lifestyle changes in the not-too-distant future, your chance of experiencing more serious problems increases dramatically.
Taken together then, notes and cautions help us navigate life smartly and safely. They serve as convenient reminders of how paying attention to the small things in the present can help guard us from being overwhelmed by larger, more daunting circumstances in the future.
The final category is a warning, which alerts us to the fact we have a very real problem. We are taught from day one in pilot training to take warnings very, very seriously. Ignore a warning and you risk potentially devastating consequences to yourself, your aircraft, and very often those around you. In fact, many of the warnings present in our flight manuals are the result of people learning lessons the hard way–frequently taking the form of aircraft destroyed and lives lost.
In our personal and professional lives, a warning is what we experience when we continue to ignore an event that threatens to drain the life out of us, be it a strained relationship, failing business, self-destructive behavior, or dying dream. Anything that alerts us to the fact that continuing business as usual is a warning.
Warnings, then, are designed compel us to take some form of corrective action, immediately. They are red lights in life that signal us of impending danger. And they exist in all parts of life.
Warnings manifest themselves in a variety of ways: guilt, depression, rationalizations, and ever-present frustration. They can also be delivered by a friend’s gentle rebuke, a boss’s unwelcome feedback or a spouses growing distance. Regardless of how they may manifest, warnings come with the same purpose: To alert. To wake up. To pay attention.
Unfortunately, warnings are not always heeded. All of us have learned to cover our ears and shield our eyes at the right moment. It’s amazing how adept we can be at keeping them out. As author Max Lucado points out, “Warnings can be as blunt as a sledgehammer and we still turn our heads and whistle them away.” It seems each and every one of us has a built in ability (and propensity) to believe we are somehow the proverbial exception to the rule.
Resolve today to not be that person.
Ask yourself, are you ignoring any warnings in your life at this moment? Are your senses numb? Your heart and mind closed to what is really happening around you? Are your eyes turning and rolling when they should be pausing and observing?
If your honest answer is yes than let me implore you to fix your warning detector. Let me encourage you to acknowledge the attitudes or actions you have failed to confront that may be setting you up for a potentially dangerous or devastating situation.
Remember, warnings are designed to help us. Warnings are intended to scream as an important relationship starts to sour; they are alarms that blare when our faith begins to fizzle; they are flares that alert us of morals being compromised.
Commit today to paying attention to warnings. Resolve to accept a little short term discomfort in order to maximize your chance of long term enjoyment. I promise you will experience less regrets, enjoy richer experiences and benefit from more fulfilling relationships.
No Dash-1 required.